The day after the official court was free so that people had a chance to rest up from it. Some of the lords and ladies that had come stayed in the castle.Other’s stayed in great houses in the city.Most of Cirroc’s sisters took the opportunity to shop in the bazaar of the capitol again.For some strange reason, there were not enough guards to accompany them.“Brothers,” the King said.“We find the staff at the castle a little short at this time.Therefore we ask that you don appropriate wear and accompany your sisters. There is nothing of any consequence that will happen here.”Cirroc did as his brother asked.
He accompanied his sister Aine, who was just older then he was. Her new husband, Lord Cullane was also there, but there were no children as yet.Cirroc did not attend too closely, he thought it prudent to give them as much time alone as he could.
But there was something strange that did happen. He ran into Avock there.While his sister and brother-in-law were busy at one stall, he went to another and signaled the man to join him.“Where’s Grail?” Cirroc asked, keeping his voice low.
“Fricking meeting at the guild,” Avock answered, keeping his voice low so as not to offend the ladies and others who were nearby.
“What sort of meeting,” Cirroc asked.
“Fucking guild is voting whether or not to let the farting King become the royal patron. I figure offering some blinking sacrifices wouldn’t hurt to get it passed.Grail is doing the speechifying for me.We figure it means steady jobs for both of us.”
“So you’re in favor of it,” Cirroc said. Avock nodded.“Why do you think you’re going to have a problem?”
“Loftus is talking against it,” Avock said. “He says that people can make more money if they can sell their services to the highest bidder.I don’t fucking like it, and I heard that beggar Jeshu was the farting assassin who brought it up.He said what Grail and me say, that it will mean more jobs for the rest of us.They thought that they decided it the first time with a fight.
I heard that was when he lost his leg. There weren’t no official meeting that time and that was how come Grail and me didn’t know about it.”
It took Cirroc a moment to take it in. That was by far the longest speech he’d ever heard Avock give.It also took him a moment to process the information.“Now I am more curious as to why you and Grail did not recognize Jeshu?”
“Lived most of the time in the fricking country,” Avock said, “Joined the guild in Lien. Came to the palace a week before the fight.All the assassins that work there, takes time to get to know each other.”
“Yes,” Cirroc agreed. “I don’t think I ever at any time knew all the guards that worked for my father.Do you know who the fight was with?”
“No bodies farting talking about that,” he said.
“So whoever won the fight is still here, and is powerful enough that people are afraid of him,” the prince mused. Avock said nothing.“All right,” Cirroc said after a few minutes.“Go back about your business in the guild.”Avock bowed slightly and turned on his heel and left.Cirroc rejoined his sister and her husband.
Back at the palace, Cirroc considered what Avock had said. If the king became the patron of the assassins guild, that would make his position more secure.He would be unassailable, which was fine with Cirroc.He thought for a moment, that it might also make the princes unstoppable, but that did not bother him.After all, wasn’t that the way kings were supposed to be.
He thought about it more and realized that he had some questions that he wanted to ask Avock or Grail. Where had Jeshu come from when he came into the city?Why had the King gone to him with the suggestion and not to one of the guards that he knew better?The only way he would know that would be if he could ask his brother about that himself.Accordingly, he went in search of Lord Bran.
Finding him in the seneschal’s office, Cirroc asked Bran, “Do you know what my brother is going to be doing today? Will he have a few minutes to talk to me?”
Lord Bran conferred for a moment with Lord Gwen, the seneschal. “He might,” Bran responded.“I will talk to him and see if he will see you today.”“I’ll wait in my mother’s garden for you,” Cirroc said.
An hour later Bran found him there. “He will see you now for a few minutes,” he informed the prince.“I’ll take you to him.”Bran led him to the King’s personal chambers.He had not been there since his father died.Still, when he looked around, he found that it had not changed much.Bran informed the King that his brother was there.
“Brother,” the king said. “Come in, what is going on in your city?”
“ I am investigating a murder, your highness,” Cirroc said. “It is the murder of a man I think you knew. He was Jeshu the beggar, but I learned that he was Jeshu the assassin before that.”
The King drew in a sharp breath, “So that is what became of him,” he said. I wondered about
that, he worked here at the palace for a time, you know. He came here from the country.I thought that I could trust him because some of the guards here had become untrustworthy.
“How did you know that they had become untrustworthy? “ Cirroc continued to question his brother.
“Instructions were not followed,” Conleach confided in Cirroc. “People would be in places they had no right or reason to be in, sometimes when they were supposed to be in other places.
Cirroc contemplated that and mentally filed it for possible future consideration. “I heard that you were trying to become the royal patron of the assassin’s guild.Why did you have Jeshu bring that up to the guild?”
“First, I asked Jeshu to do it because I believed that someone from the country would be more likely to pass my wishes on to the guild, he said. “I believe my reasons for that would be obvious to you.”He did not explain anything more about that.
“Well if nothing else, it would give the government a stability that it would not have had before.” Cirroc said.“I’ve learned that he was crippled by a dual with another assassin.Do you know who that was?
“No,” the King said, “It must have happened at the guild.”
“Have you heard any rumors about who might have done it?” Cirroc asked.
“I don’t believe that will help you’re investigation,” the King said, beginning to sound angry. Cirroc recognized that as a dismissal.
“Forgive me,” Cirroc said, “and thank-you for the answers you have already given me.”
He headed back towards his own quarters. In the meantime, the King went into his inner chamber where he had been meeting with the Gran Visir.“Just my baby brother,” Conleach said.“He is investigating some sort of a murder that happened in his city, some beggar by the name of Jeshu.”
“Well we are nearly finished here,” the Visir informed the King. “There is just the report that the vote in the Assassins guild seems to be going our way.”
“Very good,” said the King. “Keep me informed about that.You can go now.We will see you again at dinner.”
“Aye, sir,” he said as he bowed and left.
The gran Visir immediately went in search of Loftus. “We have a problem<’ he told the guard.“The vote in the Assassins Guild is going against us.” He said through clenched teeth.“And Prince Cirroc has traced the death of that beggar to the capitol, and I believe, to the palace.We are going to have to stop him.”
“Are you ready to take on the King?” Loftus asked.
“We are prepared to move during the hunt.”
“Lord Ysbathen is with you?” Loftus asked.
“Yes, now that you removed the threat to his inheritance. But Prince Cirroc must be taken care of first.”
“Hmm,” was all Loftus said by way of acceptance.
That night, Cirroc was coming down to dinner. He was wearing the usual court clothing for an informal court dinner with the King.The only weapon he had was his dagger.He came around the turn in the stair, and came on Loftus.The Gran Visir was in front of them.Loftus cleared his throat, and the Gran Visir turned, nodded, and then turned back and went on into the dining room.
Loftus turned, drew his sword, and attacked Cirroc. The Prince drew his dagger and wished he had Avock and Grail beside him.He parried with his dagger because it was the only thing he had.He also called out loudly, “Help, help.”He did his best to defend against Loftus second attack and was glad he’d chosen to wear a doublet with wide sleeves.That provided him with some protection against Loftus’s blade as he wrapped the long trailing sleeves around his arm.But it would be little better then nothing if he did not get help fast.As Loftus continued his attack and Cirroc was able to counter his moves, Cirroc called out again, “Help, help.”
Loftus continued his attack. Now it became obvious by his moves that he was attempting to dislodge Cirroc form the step above him.Cirroc became determined not to be dislodged.Cirroc defended repeatedly.Loftus attacked from the right.If it had not been for the narrowness of the passage, the fight would have been over in a second.Loftus changed his attack to head on and Cirroc had to change his defense the same way.The Prince wondered if he would be able to keep it up long enough.He called out again as Loftus switched to the left side, which did not have a dagger.He succeeded in wounding Cirroc.
Cirroc knew that he could not afford to let his guard down. Loftus was the man who had killed his weapons master.Now he was relying not only on the things he had learned from that master, but also some of the techniques he had picked up from Grail and Avock.He parried and parried again and hoped that he knew a few tricks that Loftus would not expect.
People were gathering and their footsteps distracted both warriors a little. Cirroc took a chance and did something that Avock had done.He pulled his blade back a little and used his guarding hand to strike against the flat of Loftus’s sword.As more people arrived, Loftus was taken completely by surprise.Cirroc slipped his blade between Loftus’ ribs.Cirroc was so surprised at the success of this, that he almost fell on Loftus’ sword as he dropped it.
As they crashed to the floor together, Cirroc asked Loftus, “Why?”
“Isn’t if obvious,” Loftus said. “I took …” he was gasping now.“a commission…I was to …help the…Gran Visir… become King.”
At that moment there was a disturbance. The Gran Visir, Lord Kierbhallen himself, was in the crowd that heard this.He turned and tried to flee and was stopped by Conleach’s own sword.
“What did he promise you?” Cirroc asked.
“Land…” the pauses from Loftus were getting longer now. “…and a title. It…would…have …been…land…for…my…people.”Loftus breathed his last.Moments later the Gran Visir was also dead.
“How did this start?” the King asked.
“Believe it or not,” Cirroc said, “When Loftus killed a beggar in my city.” Conleach quickly had the healers there to deal with Cirroc’s wounds.